Heritage-led regeneration can be ‘powerful and recognisable’ indicator of change

James Fryatt. Image credit: James Robinson

A new report has highlighted the importance of embedding heritage-led regeneration within plans for Britain’s historic town centres.

The ‘Historic Opportunities’ report, released by planning and development consultancy Lichfields, details the environmental, economic and social contributions that heritage-led regeneration can deliver.

It considers how long-term thinking and a holistic approach to regeneration are ‘keys to success’, recognising the importance of repurposing heritage assets in ‘ambitious and creative’ ways to meet changing needs.

The report builds on the themes contained in Lichfields’ ‘Moving on Up?’ report, which analysed over 100 bids for three funding streams aimed at delivering town centre regeneration: the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund, and the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund.

Lichfields said the report demonstrates that, when done well, heritage-led regeneration is not just an expedient ‘sticking plaster’, but can be a ‘powerful and recognisable’ indicator of change that inspires confidence, pride and investment.

Almost half the current buildings in retail use and 33% of office buildings were built before 1919, with many of these suffering from neglect or having been poorly adapted in response to economic and social changes. However, while targeted investment in the restoration and reuse of heritage assets to deliver wider benefits is not a new approach, Lichfields explained the report finds that the way heritage-led regeneration is being implemented has evolved and is now ‘far more complex and multi-layered’.

James Fryatt, planner and heritage consultant at Lichfields Newcastle office and the report’s lead author, said, “Heritage-led regeneration projects need to be focused more than ever on reusing assets in ambitious and creative ways to respond to people’s changing lifestyle, work and shopping habits. In the high street for instance, this will see historic buildings increasingly adapted to reflect changes in retail and growing demand for leisure activities, creative and flexible workspaces, and housing in sustainable and accessible locations.

“It’s also about bringing the history of towns to the surface, engaging communities in heritage projects and enhancing places with the aim of attracting new businesses, visitors and residents.”

Nick Bridgland, Lichfields’ heritage director, added, “This is an important report and comes at a time of rapid change for our historic towns. Heritage-led investment must be far more dynamic because it’s such a valuable tool for regeneration.

Nick Bridgland

“The key to long-term success is to see it as part of an overarching holistic approach embedded within wider programmes of investment aimed at revitalising places that have been left behind. There are many positives on the horizon and our report points to a successful future for those historic towns that take advantage of the available funding and adopt a fresh approach to heritage-led regeneration work.”

A copy of the ‘Historic Opportunities’ report is available at https://lichfields.uk/content/insights/historic-opportunities